Two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre are taking a special trip to Ghana. Viola Ford Fletcher, 107, and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100, leave on Friday, August 13, for the trip of a lifetime — their first-time visit to Africa. Fletcher, also known as “Mother” Fletcher, and Ellis, otherwise known as “Uncle Red”, are two of the three last known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The race riot destroyed the properties of the Black inhabitants living in Greenwood, which was at that time the most affluent African-American community in the United States. 300 lives were lost.
Fletcher and Ellis, while in Ghana, will meet with the president of the country and other tribal chiefs. The two centenarians will be honored. Fletcher will be named “Queen Mother” in a traditional Ghanaian ceremony while Ellis will be given the title of Chief. They will also have the names of their descendants on a wall at the Diaspora African Forum Embassy.
Sponsors of the trip are calling it, “Coming Home: A Journey of a Lifetime.”
“Folks always want to get home and she’s thought about it since she was a little girl. She’s super excited, they’re both excited and they could not be going with more wonderful people,” Rep. Regina Goodwin said.
The trip was created by Michael and Eric Thompson, founders of “Our Black Truth Social Media,” who met Fletcher and Ellis during the Centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre this year. Fletcher told the Thompsons it was her life-long dream to visit Africa. The two started working towards making her dream come true.
The trip is also being sponsored by the Diaspora African Forum, whose vision is “to be the bridge that unites the African Diaspora and Africa.”
The third remaining survivor of the Massacre, Mother Randle, won’t be able to make the trip but she has asked the others to bring her back some souvenirs, KTUL reported.
Fletcher and Ellis will return to the U.S. on August 21.
The Tulsa Race Massacre
In May 1921, 19-year-old Black shoeshiner Dick Rowland entered the Drexel building at 319 South Main Street to use the Blacks-only restroom which was on the top floor. The building had only one elevator, which was being operated by White teen Sarah Page. According to reports, Rowland accidentally slipped and fell on Page causing her to scream out of panic. A White clerk who witnessed the incident called the police, who later on arrested Rowland and charged him with assault even though Page refused to press any charges.
The incident was reported by a white-owned local newspaper calling for Rowland’s lynching. Rowland was processed and taken to court on May 31, 1921, however, tensions between the White mob who went to the courthouse to lynch Rowland and the Black residents who were also around to ensure his safety escalated into a 24-hour-long armed confrontation.
A White mob eventually attacked and destroyed the properties of Black people living in Greenwood, which was then known as the “Black Wall Street” as it was home to highly successful and profitable Black-owned businesses. The incident did not only claim 300 lives but destroyed more than 1,200 homes.